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Jerez Flamenco Festival

Israel Galvan, Belen Maya, Isabel Bayón, Rafaela Carrasco, Olga Pericet, Antonio Canales and a long et cetera. Big names and great voices on the stage of the Villamarta Theatre in Jerez. One of the highlights on Andalusia’s events calendar, Jerez puts on its dancing shoes to celebrate this legendary flamenco festival in style.


By:  Lakshmi I. Aguirre
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Festival Flamenco de Jerez
Flamenco festival
2013 Programme
Birth: 1997
Location: Jerez (Cadiz)
Directed by: Isamay Benavente
Stands out for: balancing tradition and innovation

At the end of February every year the noise of footwork can be heard. Like the Pied Piper of Hamelin people are lured to one of the cradles of flamenco: Jerez de la Frontera. In the birthplace of flamenco giants such as La Paquera, Antonio Chacón and Tía Anica la Piriñaca, newcomers and old-timers make their way to the stages of the Villamarta Theatre, Sala Compañía, Palacio de Villavicencio abd the wineries and peñas throughout the city.

“Flamenco dancing as we know it today,” explains Caballero Bonald in Lights and Shades of Flamenco “is the result of the personal interpretations of flamenco tradition by a succession of artists”. Isamay Benavente, director of the festival, defines the festival as a “celebration of flamenco” that pays homage to dance, one of the most freely expressive and historically charged manifestiations of flamenco.

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The progenitors of that hypnotic footwork annually luring spectators to Jerez include names like Belén Maya, Isabel Bayón, Eva Yerbabuena, Olga Pericet, Chloé Brûlé, Israel Galván, Antonio Canales, Javier Barón and Marcos Vargas. Accompanied by musicians including Miguel Poveda, José Valencia, Jorge Pardo, David Lagos, Tomasito and Gerardo Nuñez, to name but a few, they are dancing to become poetry composed of live flesh. But let’s not forget another key ingredient, the audience, condemned to be dazzled and overwhelmed.

It’s not always easy: “The festival also arouses tensions,” comments Benavente when talking about some of the more traditional crowds coming to Jerez, “but that’s what makes flamenco so wonderful. It’s alive and it evolves over time”. Along with the Flamenco biennale in Seville, the Jerez Flamenco Festival has one of longest trajectories in Andalusia and showcases current trends in the flamenco world.

Since 1997 the festival has grown year after year, thanks to the support of the Villamarta Foundation, to include more stages and venues, as well as new facets demanded by its diverse audience. According to its director, more than 50% of the crowd come from abroad. “Our overseas visitors are extremely faithful and are used to a very high standard. People come from as far as Japan and Germany. They follow their teachers across the world to take part in workshops and perfect their technique”.

The educational component of the festival is one of the key reasons to the success of the Jerez Flamenco Festival. Spaces on the workshops are filled almost as soon as the programme is published each year, the reason being that one gets few opportunities to study with the likes of Mercedes Ruiz, Antonio el Pipa or Javier Latorre.

So, what remains to be done? “Three things. Enrique Morente, Paco de Lucía and Joaquín Cortés. We hope to be able to invite them as soon as the economic crisis is over,” confesses Benavente, who considers himself to be conventional rather than revolutionary. “Cultural projects need to develop over time and so I tend to stress tranquility, hard work and normalcy”.

This is your chance to come into contact with the pure expression of emotion. Amongst wine and horses visitors witness the way alegrías and tragedies find the precise words and suitable chords, accompanied by a flick of the wrist and the swish of a flamenco dress. “Without music, life would be a mistake,” said Friedrich Nietzsche. Without dance, flamenco would be too.

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